Thursday, August 09, 2007

Parties Compete for Top Spot on Facebook

You can tell it's the silly season when MPs start issuing press releases about how popular their respective parties are on Facebook. LibDem frontbencher Steve Webb, who is in charge of writing their manifesto, reckons the LibDems are far better than the Tories or Labour on Facebook. He reckons 40% of LibDem MPs are on Facebook compared to 12% of Toris and 13% of Labour. Ming Campbell has more than 2,000 friends, apparently. But does anyone seriously believes Ming even knows what Facebook is, let alone logs onto it every day? I think not. Statto Steve Webb reckons that around one in 67 Lib Dem party members is signed up, compared with one in 105 Tory members and one in 130 Labour party members. I'd love to know how he works those figures out. He says...
Young people are far less likely to vote than their parents and grandparents, yet many of them have strong views on local and national issues and want their voice to be heard. Social networking sites such as Facebook provide an ideal way for this conversation to take place. The Liberal Democrats believe that elected representatives should be easy to reach, which is why a far higher proportion of Lib Dems are available through sites such as Facebook than their Labour or Tory counterparts. David Cameron makes a lot of fuss about his use of the internet, but it's clear that behind the facade the rest of his party is lagging a long way behind.

Webb, who has 1,000 friends on the site, said it provided a useful tool to help him communicate with younger voters.
It's been a really useful as a way of enabling them to raise issues with me - bus fares is the number one concern - and most of them are really positive about me being on there.

These are the 19 Tory MPs on Facebook which I can find.
James Arbuthnot, David Burrows, Alistair Burt, David Cameron, Douglas Carswell, Philip Dunne, Nigel Evans, David Evennett, Damian Green, Justine Greening, Stephen Hammond, Greg Hands, Nick Herbert, Adam Holloway, Boris Johnson, David Lidington, John Maples, David Mundell, Andrew Rosindell, David Ruffley, Grant Shapps, Graham Stuart, Ed Vaizey, John Whittingdale, Ann Widdecombe
If Steve Webb's figures are right, I must be missing some.

UPDATE: A good publicity coup for Mr Webb. Even the Daily Mail has printed his press release without questioning how he compiled the figures! The proportionality figures he quotes were calculated by dividing the assumed party membership by the number of people signed up to each of the parties on the Great Facebook race. Not exactly scientific is it? Especially for someone with a Phd!

UPDATE: I'm struck by the number of Tory Candidates who have launched Facebook groups. Perhaps this is the best way to judge how parties are embracing the medium. I might do some investigatiosn into this today if I can't think of anything better to do!

19 comments:

Matthew Scott said...

maybe caroline spelman should send one out saying we are beating the other parties in the great facebook race!

2331 to Lib Dems pitiful 1045, or Labour's 1376!

Mark Wallace said...

Douglas Carswell is on F'book as well.
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=638596212

So Ming has 2000 friends? Maggie doesn't even have a profile and yet she's got a fan club of almost 4,000:
http://dur.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2204726881

Jim said...

Can we have more of Dave doing the washing up on YouTude.

More serious, and this affects all Partys, but the Tories especially. Many may not know this but WE are paying for these web sites, not the party coffers. Check any web site and look for yourself; example Andrew ( Tim Nice But Dim ) Mitchell, down the bottom of the page you will see the following message

""Tim Nice But Dim is responsible for this site, which is funded from the Incidental Expenses Provision of the House of Commons"".

The TAX payer is therefore paying for these sites via the Incidental Expenses Provision.

As part of MPs Communication Allowance, they are allowed to set up and maintain a website, but under IEP they are NOT. IEP is for occasion expenses only, ie mail shoots.

More worrying under the rules MPS cannot do the following on websites set up using their Comms expenses;

It must not be used to fund party political activity or campaigning. If you include material which is not allowed under these rules, you must fund the whole cost from another source.

Also MPs cannot use their websites to criticise or campaign against anyone seeking election or otherwise seek to undermine the reputation of political opponents.

Andre said...

Although I'm not from the UK, as a young person myself I'd like to think young people will be motivated to vote because they believe in the policies brought forward by the political party and because they actually believe in the voting process. Anyway most politician blogs/myspace/facebook accounts more often than not look as though they're designed by some campaign team - and I think most people will see through that gimmick.

C4' said...

The David Cameron that signed up to Facebook was exposed as a fake Mr. Dale

Iain Dale said...

Jim, oh dear. You will have to do better than that. Labour MPs also have their website costs met from that allowance. Rather than make assertions about Tory MPs which you can't back up, why don't you actually post something interesting? Or better still, start your own blog. You always seem to have a lot to say for yourself.

Cranmer said...

Even His Grace is on facebook.

It is amazing how things have progressed since the printing press.

Hughes Views said...

"The David Cameron that signed up to Facebook was exposed as a fake Mr. Dale" - now why would DC want to pretend to be Iain?

Timmymc said...

Next time I'm canvassing I'll tell people to get on Facebook and find their Mp there and send them a message. I'm sure that will work.

Nathan said...

Steve Webb is a facebook whore - he was identifying every young person in the area of his constituency and adding them as a friend, rather than the other way around. I promptly denied his request when I received one. He has his own group called 'Northavon Residents' set up which aims to listen to the youngsters of the area. Not only that, but he has just joined an appreciation group for an elderly fellow in my village who is known to stand outside his house and wave at people driving past. This group has about 10 members. When you can't escape him on Facebook, it's no wonder he has so many 'friends' in the area!

Matthew Scott said...

"Many may not know this but WE are paying for these web sites, not the party coffers." - Jim

Interesting comment on a post about Facebook. The taxpayer doen't pay for Facebook. Facebook is free.

aardvark said...

Not exactly scientific is it? Especially for someone with a Phd!

Iain, can you suggest a better way of assessing how popular the respective parties are on Facebook?

I don't think that it was meant to be taken too seriously. On his blog Steve Webb says that it was all just for a bit of light relief.

Incidentally, although he was a Professor, I am not sure that he has a PhD. There is no mention of it in any of the biographies of him on the web.

Charlotte said...

I don't really understand MPs with Facebook sites. In fact, I don't really understand FB (notwithstanding I am a member). Facebook was started by students, for students. It seems somewhat wrong having MPs as members, especially when they're randomly adding people as friends. A "friend" should be someone you actually know, shouldn't it?

Letterman said...

Also none of the parties got the required 5000 members to win the race which is all but abandoned anyway AND the Lib Dems got the lowest number signing up out of the 3 parties; they might have more facebookers per member but they have less members and less facebookers overall.

Clive said...

Its a sign of the silly times that even Webb has to spoil his blurb with a anti-Cameron spin. 'The facade' indeed.

Getting so tired of this mob hysteria. Three months ago it was Brown was a monster who should be kept in the attic, now it is Cameron is a useless toff.

Have the press and its toadies been at the wacky weed? Or is it PMT ( painfully miffed tosser)

aardvark said...

Clive said...
"Its a sign of the silly times that even Webb has to spoil his blurb with a anti-Cameron spin. 'The facade' indeed.

Getting so tired of this mob hysteria."


Have you read the recent Steve Webb blog entries? He doesn't even mention Cameron. Neither does the BBC report on the matter. Where is the "mob Hysteria"?

Richard Havers said...

Facebook is so last year Iain. There's no way that it has any real world relevance once MPs start using it.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

The Weasel has joined facebook out of curiosity. I don't get it really, unless you accept the fairly obvious fact that anybody can hijack your personal details, and those of your "friends" without too much trouble.

John Whittingdale said...

Has it occurred your commentators that MPs might join Facebook for the same reason as everyone else? I use it to keep in touch with people I know. I have about 100 Friends so far, only about 5 of whom are constituents. I do not use it as a campaigning tool - although I see nothing wrong with MPs and candidates creating groups to publicise their campaigning activities if they choose to do so. As so often happens, MPs are criticised for being out of touch if they do not use new technology and are then criticised if they do!